Posted by: anglopole | August 15, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

No, no…. I am not going to write about Jane Austin’s novels, even though they are great literary portraits of what Englishness is all about. I had a few conversations this week which, put together with what I’ve read, brought the whole issue of prejudice and pride into my mind. It’s not hard to guess, both of the notions appeared in the converations in the context of living in the UK, being a foreigner, talking about how one perceives the reality in the land of Shakespeare, etc.

I don’t think there is a nation on the Earth that would not have some sort of pride…. Do correct me if I am wrong. I’d say, however, the higher the particular nation’s head is reaching above the other nations, the more visible the nation’s pride is…

J. Paxman, already mentioned by me, wrote in his famous book about the English: “Britannia may no longer rule the waves, but the English can still make foreigners feel small”. This attitude is still displayed by some here in the UK (and sometimes, surprisingly, by English people living abroad!) and it is these people that find it so terribly irritating when foreigners dare remind them of the negative aspects of life here in England. Then, the hurt pride swiftly produces a label for the foreign critics, namely ‘prejudiced X (various nouns appear here, eg. ignorants, idiots, ….one Englishman I know particularly loves to use the word ‘retard ‘ in this context…)’. Let’s have a look at the definition of the word prejudice:

“an unreasonable dislike and distrust of people who are different from you in some way, especially because of their race, sex, religion etc – used to show disapproval”

It doesn’t really fit in the context I have presented, or does it? Criticising a country simply means pointing to the faults’ in its system or mentality of its people and is usually done based on the obvious facts and so doesn’t have the nonsense factor so characteristic of prejudice.

Having a critical view of a land, I think, should by no means be a privilege of the citizens of the particular country.

Yet, however illogical it may be, pride is often married to prejudice in the relationship between the English and the foreigners who choose to live in the old Blighty.

Of course, one of the solutions would be to put a stiff upper lip on and speak only what people want to hear….


Responses

  1. I think you tend to overstate people’s reaction.

    A society, a country is an extension of the people in it. So, if somebody from outside that society complains, it’s hard not to see it as a personal affront.

    Consider, in your house you bought some curtains. As time carries on you realise that the curtains were a bit of a mistake.

    You don’t want, really, to admit to it because they were quite expensive, and you don’t want to admit you paid a lot of money to make you life a little bit worse.

    Your husband says, one day, that he doesn’t like the curtains. You’re a bit annoyed at him but ultimately, its his house, he has to live there, so his opinion is probably fair comment.

    Then, someone comes to dinner. They eat the food your carefully prepared. Sits down on the sofa with a glass of brandy, and announcing that your curtains are rubbish.

    They’re attacking your taste (as dubious as it is) so they’re attacking you.

    Surely, your reaction would be, “I believe the front door’s that way, don’t let it smack you on the arse of the way out.”

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  2. Mark – thanks for your comment. I can see where you are coming from and agree with you, basically. You know, when I meet my friends here, I don’t start our conversation with: ‘You know what I’m fed up with British Gas rasing the prices!’ or ‘What the heck is this – yet another CCTV camera?!’ 😉 There is time and place for everything. There is something that I call constructive criticism = critical remarks based on somebody’s respect for me; they don’t put down, but are meant to help…. Most of the things that one can read about in this blog are things I do not discuss with everyone and all the time… Each entry presents an issue/issues I’ve thought about at some point in time while living in the UK – they are not on my mind all the time and I have learnt to live in the realities I sometimes describe as funny or strange for foreigners to the UK:-)
    If a conversation I am having with someone has gone in a direction where I can only make a negative comment about something and the person wants my honest opinion – I will give it to them. I will not pretend that I am happy about this particular issue… that would simply be hypocrisy, wouldn’t it? If they want my opinion about sth personal to them, I’d still be honest, but I would make sure I deliver my message in a tactful way…. 🙂

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